★ Best of the Springs winner
$................ $12 or less
$$$$.......... $30 and up
3 MARGARITAS - Five locations, 3margaritasmex.com $$ ▲ ☀
You'll be glad you came to this Colorado-based chain once that first forkful of carne asada or bite of fajitas goes down.
ALFONSO'S - 1022 S. 21st St., 575-9289 $
Alfonso's is the place for a big appetite and a thin wallet. Try the Dom Poncho - an 18-inch burrito bound to fill you up.
AMANDA'S FONDA - 3625 W. Colorado Ave., 227-1975; 8050 N. Academy Blvd., 266-6680; amandasfonda.com $ ☀
A colorful spot for Mexican fare. The creekside patio is beautiful during warm weather and servers dress in festive attire. Amanda's is known for its margaritas and there are quite a few to choose from. Try the carne asada, one of the most popular dishes.
ARCEO'S - 1605 S. Nevada Ave., 442-2626; 4608 Rusina Road, 264-0143; facebook.com/pages/Arceos-Mexican-Restaurant/117487684936126 $
Arceo's is as festive as a Mexican restaurant comes, and patrons love the pork burritos, chiles rellenos and tacos.
BEAN BANDIT AND BEAN BANDIT CAFE - 320 N. Circle Drive, 634-9945; 2819 N. Nevada Ave., 634-9946 $
One of the oldest restaurants in the Springs still gives you a solid deal for your money. The chiles rellenos are a crowd favorite.
CARLOS MIGUEL'S MEXICAN BAR & GRILL - six locations, carlosmiguels.com $$ ☀
This Colorado-based chain serves an upscale take on Guadalajaran-style dishes. Diners love the pollo borracho (drunken chicken) - chicken rolled in mushroooms, peppers and cheese, and topped with a special habanero sauce.
CRYSTAL PARK CANTINA - 178 Crystal Park Road, Manitou Springs, 685-5999, crystalparkcantina.com $$ ☀
A hidden gem tucked away in Manitou Springs in the old Mission Bell Inn. It has a creative menu and great drinks, including the Fighting Sue. Many love the chiles rellenos topped with the Mexican Alfredo sauce.
EL PADRINO MEXICANO - 13425 Voyager Parkway, 487-2727 $$ ☀
This locally owned restaurant serves authentic Mexican food in a comfortable yet elegant atmosphere.
EL RANCHITO CARNICERIA NO. 3 - 1714 Monterey Road, 630-0150 $
Belly up for the most authentic taqueria-style soft tacos around. The counter's at the back of a Mexican market, and they're happy to accommodate any food request.
EL TACO REY - 330 E. Colorado Ave., 475-9722, eltacorey.com $ ★☀
Founded in 1976 by the Aguilar family, this intimate restaurant has become a favorite with locals. Head down on a sunny day, and partake in the avocado pork burritos or red sauce enchiladas as you eat at the picnic tables out front.
ESTELLA'S MEXICAN RESTAURANT - 925 S. 8th St., 575-0244 $
They do Mexican comfort food well here. Estella's breakfasts are quite popular. It also has a full bar.
FIESTA JALISCO - 6074 Stetson Hills Blvd., 573-8813, fiestajalisco.net $$
Drop in for a margarita, albondigas soup or the Fiesta Jalisco Enchilada.
FIESTA MEXICANA - 420 W. Midland Ave., Woodland Park, 687-3551 $
The staples of Mexican food are here, including fajitas and the carne asada burrito. And if you're thirsty, the margaritas are the way to go.
GUADALAJARA MEXICAN RESTAURANT - 7336 McLaughlin Road, Falcon, 494-0700 $ ☀
Family owned and operated, this spot offers more than 40 items under $10. Stop in for the daily happy hour from 3 to 6 p.m., and knock back a full platter of burritos or one of many chicken chipotle dishes.
MB'S PICK: JORGE'S MEXICAN RESTAURANT - 2427 W. Colorado Ave., 634-9031 $
After about a half million in renovation costs, this lively family-run restaurant offers great service and a nice selection of traditional Mexican-American dishes. And the house-made tortilla chips are a great pairing with the guacamole, which tasted like it had been made moments before it arrived at the table. Dish not to miss : shrimp fajitas ($13.50).
JOSE MULDOON'S - 222 N. Tejon St., 636-2311; 5710 S. Carefree Circle, 574-5673; josemuldoons.com $ ☀
Traditional fare and great specials - for instance, Taco Tuesdays and Thirsty Thursdays. Try a burrito covered in green or red chili.
JUAN PABLO'S MEXICAN RESTAURANT (FORMERLY EL POBLANO) - 908 N. Circle Drive, Suite A, 632-1971 $
The restaurant might be small, but its Central American fare is mighty. Expect some dishes you rarely see in Colorado.
LA CARRETA - 35 Iowa Ave., 477-1157 $
Authentic food in a family-run restaurant. Excellent red chili.
LA CASA FIESTA NEW MEXICAN RESTAURANT - 230 Front St., Monument, 481-1234, lacasafiesta.net $ ☀
The extensive menu offers loads of choices of southern New Mexican cuisine. The fajitas and carnitas are popular. Fiesta also offers a gluten-free menu. Check out its lovely patio, which is partially covered and features a firepit, fireplace and heaters.
LA CASITA MEXICAN GRILL - Four locations, lacasitamexigrill.com $
An always popular place with a salsa selection to die for, this local chain serves housemade tortillas and is easy on the pocketbook.
LA FLOR DE JALISCO - 5520 S. U.S. 85/87, No. 103, 392-4571 $
Traditional Mexican spot in Security. Try the tacos and enchiladas.
LA MISSION - 7634 McLaughlin Road, Falcon, 495-7052 $
Authentic Mexican fare. The green chili is a stand out.
MB'S PICK: LA ROSA SOUTHWESTERN DINING - 25 Colorado 105, Palmer Lake, 368-7676, larosasouthwesterndining.com $
It's well worth driving to Palmer Lake to eat at La Rosa. The small, charming restaurant with a tiny bar in the front and simple wood tables offers a warm welcome to everyone seeking fresh, homemade Mexican food. Dishes not to miss: Vegetarian tamales ($12), Fish Vera Cruz ($17), Tres Leches Cake ($6).
LA SINALOENSE - 642 S. Academy Blvd., 550-1213 $
This Mexican restaurant and a bakery offering pineapple, pumpkin and custard empanadas and Tres Leches Cake.
LAS PALMITAS - 6805 Corporate Drive, Suite 110, 260-9393 $
In a corner of a former shopping center, you won't likely spot Las Palmitas unless you know it's there. It's worth the search. An extensive menu hits all the standards as well as branching into creative combinations. The service is friendly and fast. And the setting is airy and just colorful enough to remind you that you're not at Chili's. The selection of margaritas stands up to the richly flavorful food.
LA UNICA AUTENTICO - 3317 W. Colorado Ave., 633-7499 $$ ☀
Unless there are cars in the parking lot, you might wonder if this little place is actually open. Give it a shot, because the food is solid and tasty, especially the chiles rellenos and enchiladas. The selection of Mexican beer is notable, as are the margaritas.
THE LOOP - 965 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-9344, theloopatmanitou.com $
Fans of The Loop are fiercely loyal and often cite the restaurant's huge (and huge selection of) margaritas as why. Grab a spot by the fireplace, and fill your belly with a vast selection of Mexican favorites.
MARIA'S TACO SHOP - 2812 E. Pikes Peak Ave., 471-4525, marias-tacoshop.com $
This family-owned spot is known for its tasty fish tacos, but if that's not your style, try the gorditas or chiles rellenos. Wash your meal down with a margarita.
MONICA'S TACO SHOP - 5829 Palmer Park Blvd., 597-7022; 30 E. Fillmore St., 473-1996 $ ★☀
If you need it Mexican and you need it now, this is the place to stop.
PUEBLO VIEJO MEXICAN RESTAURANT - 5598 N. Academy Blvd., 266-1999; 5934 Stetson Hills Blvd., 638-6040 $$ ☀
Try the carne asada and fajitas.
TERESA'S PICK: RAMON Q'S CANTINA - 1005 W. Colorado Ave., 434-2741, ramonqs.com $$ ★☀
Owner Elizabeth St. James named the eatery for her dad, who was her inspiration. She proudly brings her family recipes to the menu, creating Mexican with a twist. All her food is made from the freshest ingredients. And the famous Q's Twisted Burger is a third of a pound of angus beef topped with brisket, saut?d jalape?s and onions, bacon, avocado, Cotija cheese and an avocado green salsa. Go for Q's chicken, shrimp and steak fajitas, too.
Dish not to miss: Q's chicken mole.
RANCHO ALEGRE - 1899 S. Nevada Ave., 329-1276 $ ☀
The choices abound here, but a simple plate of carne asada will always please.
RITA'S - 2521 W. Colorado Ave., 667-7268 $
Basic, tasty Mexican food - burritos, tacos, enchiladas and chiles rellenos.
RODOLFO'S MEXICAN GRILL - 15932 Jackson Creek Parkway, Monument, 487-9410 $
Folks rave about the authentic taqueria food, especially the carne asada fries.
RUDY'S LITTLE HIDEAWAY - 945 S. 8th St., 632-9527 $
Fans of this Mexican-style diner head in for breakfast burritos and the green chili on anything and everything.
TERESA'S PICK: SALSA BRAVA FRESH MEXICAN GRILL - 9420 Briar Village Point, 955-6650; 802 Village Center Drive, 266-9244; salsabravaonline.com $$★ ☀
All the food is made from scratch daily, by staff standing behind the logo of Eat Fresh, Live Well. The salsas are made with 2,500 pounds of fresh tomatoes weekly. You won't find any lard or MSG in the dishes. It's Mexican food with a creative twist. The tortilla soup is an excellent choice packed with fajita chicken and fresh avocado chunks.
Dish not to miss: coconut shrimp ($9.99 appetizer)
SALSA LATINA - 28 E. Rio Grande St., 328-1513, salsalatinas.com $ ☀
This spinoff of El Taco Rey offers homemade tamales, avocado with pork burritos and out-of-sight green chili.
SENOR MANUEL'S MEXICAN CUISINE - 660 N. Nevada Ave., 598-3033, senormanuel.com $$ ☀
Eat your chimichangas out on the new patio. You won't go away hungry from this restaurant.
SONTERRA INNOVATIVE SOUTHWESTERN GRILL - 28B S. Tejon St., 471-9222, sonterragrill.com $$ ☀
Upscale Mexican/Southwestern in a swanky downtown location. Be sure to order the tableside guacamole, which is made as you watch.
TACO STAR - 605 N. Circle Drive, 520-3599; 318 N. Wahsatch Ave., 630-3646 $
This taqueria makes some of the best bacon burritos around. And as a bonus, the drive-up is open 24-7.
TORTILLERIA DELICIAS - 513 S. Circle Drive, 471-2244 $
Traditional Mexican fare.
VALLEJO'S RESTAURANT - 111 S. Corona St., 635-0980 $
Save this spot for Fridays. It's the only day of the week they make chiles rellenos, and they're worth the wait.